Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Certificate Module 2 Chapter 12 First Thoughts

First I had fun making some 3D shapes out of felt, stuffed with toy stuffing.  (My niece is about to have a baby - 4 days overdue and counting - and I thought these could make nice toys later.)

For my functional 3D object, I would like to make a kimono.  All the time I was working on the pieced samples, I found myself humming the tune of " A wandering minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches ..." from Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Mikado.  Since some of the techniques we used were Japanese and since some of my samples had a distinctly Japanese theme, it seemed an appropriate choice. 

The kimono will be a stage costume for Nanki-Poo in the operetta.  It has been interesting to do some research into traditional Japanese men's clothing.  In traditional Japanese dress, the patterns, fabrics and placements of designs on clothing could convey subtle messages about the status and character of the wearer.  Although it would take a lifetime's study to understand these messages, I thought it would be interesting to try to convey something of Nanki-Poo's status and character through the surface design of the kimono. 

Although the son of the Mikado and thus a person of very high status, he is disguised as a poor travelling minstrel.  As well as the song "A wandering minstrel I ..." another song he sings is about a bird, a "little tom tit".  In this song, he tries to gain the sympathies of his lady love by singing to her of a bird that died for love.  This also pokes fun at the culture of over-sentimentality which was prevalent in Victorian Britain at the time.

Being a rather large object, the kimono will require more fabric than I have left, so I intend to dye and print more fabrics.  The samples I have done so far in this module have made me realise that the range of my design source is rather limited.  Accordingly, I have begun to gather more research by drawing birds and feathers to tie in with Nanki-Poo's second song.  These will bring some fresh patterns to my dyeing and printing.

I have recorded my thoughts so far in three design sheets.  The first contains the inspiration for my kimono.

The second contains details of the construction of the kimono and a diagram of the pattern I'll use.  This is from an excellent book Creative Dressing by Kaori O'Connor (Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1980).

The third contains some thoughts on placement of the patterns.  I played around with various ways of showing the designs as well as exploring a few different pattern placements.  This stage could have gone on for some time, but I limited myself, since the new fabrics I'll prepare will, to a certain extent, dictate the patterns and their placement.  Once I have prepared some more fabrics, I'll try this exercise again.

Finally, although I've only just started, here is a composite picture of some drawings I did of birds I had photographed in my garden and a feather I picked up.


  1. What a wonderful idea Catherine and how exciting your ideas look.

  2. Brilliant idea to do a kimono to tie in with all the Japanese techniques. Can't wait to see it.

  3. Gosh Catherine, what an amazing project to get your teeth into! I love your reasearch. I'm really excited to watch the developments.

  4. Hi Catherine, look forward to seeing the kimono great to see that you are taking on such an inspiring project.

  5. This is going to be one to watch!